Thomas Robert Weschler, Vice Admiral U.S. Navy (retired), died peacefully on April 3, 2016, in Mystic, Connecticut. His full and well-lived life included a distinguished naval career, a loving marriage of 66 years to Katrina Quinn Weschler, a lifelong dedication to his large family and numerous friends around the world, and a passion for travel, history, and Tall Ships. He will be remembered for his sense of purpose and service, his strong moral compass, and his faith in God, and for his love of life, his wife, his family, his friends and his country.
Vice Admiral Weschler was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on December 21, 1917, the fifth of Charles and Florence (Illig) Weschler’s six children. Growing up in Erie, he fell in love with ships and naval history during frequent visits with his father to the city’s waterfront, where he learned its historic link to the USS Niagara, Oliver Hazard Perry, and the battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. He graduated first in his class from Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie, and at age 17 followed in the footsteps of his oldest brother, Charles, to the US Naval Academy, graduating in 1939. Due to poor vision, he was not commissioned into the Navy at graduation, and so joined the Merchant Marine. Tom credited the hours spent watching the horizon on merchant ships with improving his eyesight, which enabled his subsequent commission in 1941.
His distinguished naval career included service in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in WWII, in which he was one of the “swim-aways” surviving the sinking of the aircraft carrier Wasp in September 1942. He remained in the South Pacific throughout the war and then obtained a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from MIT. One of his favorite tours of duty was as aide to Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, in 1955-57. He was an officer on a number of naval ships including the USS Macon, USS Canberra, USS Montrose and the USS Clarence K. Bronson, and commanded destroyer and amphibious squadrons. He was central to the development of the Polaris missile program and was responsible for the development and construction of the Spruance class of naval vessels. During the Vietnam War he lead the rapid buildup of capabilities at Da Nang and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts. He was Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Force Atlantic, than promoted to Vice-Admiral, completing his naval career as Director of Logistics, Joint Chiefs of Staff. At retirement he received his second Distinguished Service Medal. In addition, he received four Legion of Merit awards from the Navy during his career. After his retirement, Tom was a Professor and head of the Global Strategy Department at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He was very active in the Naval Academy Alumni Association and served as the President of the Class of ‘39 chapter for several years.
In 1973, Tom and Katrina moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where they lived for almost forty years and were involved in many civic and philanthropic activities. To celebrate their fiftieth anniversary, Tom and Katrina took a year-long trip to Europe which the two planned together, loved doing, and spoke about often when they returned to Newport. In 2008, Tom and Katrina moved to Stone Ridge in Mystic, Connecticut.
For the last 40 years of his life, Tom was passionate about Tall Ships America and education under sail, and he brought the tall ships to Newport five times from 1982-2007. At the age of 90, he turned his attention and efforts to building a tall ship for Rhode Island and helped to raise more than $18 million toward the ship’s completion. The Oliver Hazard Perry, which Tom always felt linked Erie, where he began, and Newport, which he loved, was commissioned in July of 2013.
Tom is predeceased by his wife, Katrina.
He is survived by his daughter, Katherine D. Williams; his son, Thomas R. Weschler, and wife Mary; seven grandchildren; seven greatgrandchildren; Katrina’s sisters, Francis Quinn Buseck and Mary Quinn Scolio; Charles Weschler’s daughter, Mimi Weiss; and his many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews in the Weschler and Quinn families, who mattered a great deal to him.
A funeral mass will be held on Friday, April 8, 2016 at 2 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church, 32 E. Main Street, Mystic, CT, with a reception following at Stone Ridge, 186 Jerry Browne Road, Mystic. A burial service will be held at the U. S. Naval Academy later this spring.
Flowers may be sent to Stone Ridge and/or contributions to the OHPRI, 29 Touro Street, Newport, RI 02840.